Why banning SUP is so important

Monday Musing

[ M Doley ]

The Centre has banned the use of select single-use plastic (SUP) items across the country to combat the rapidly increasing plastic pollution.

The banned SUP items include packaging films, plastic sticks for balloons, straws, cutleries, ear buds, candy and ice-cream, and cigarette packets, among other products.

The government has not yet imposed a blanket ban on plastic carry bags. It has just increased the thickness of the bags. As per a notification, plastic bags having a thickness less than 120 microns will be banned from the end of this year.

Apart from polythene carry bags, several varieties of single-use plastic items, like soft drinks and mineral water bottles, will still be on sale in the markets. These items perfectly fall under the single-use plastic category as defined in the notification.

The banned SUP commodities have been defined as “plastic items intended to be used once for the same purpose before being disposed of or recycled.”

Why is banning SUP important?

According to a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, around one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, while up to five trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year, and half of all plastic produced is designed only for single-use purposes.

In India, approximately 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated every day. But the country lacks an organised system for managing these wastes. We use these plastic products without thinking where these wastes might end up.

These plastics litter the roads and choke drains, rivers and streams, causing environmental pollution.

 The UNEP report further stated that 85 percent of the SUP items end up in landfills and unregulated waste.

These plastic items filled with toxic and harmful chemicals are posing a serious threat to soil health, reducing its fertility, which is directly linked to food security and human health.

Plastic pollution is also one of the major threats to aquatic animals, including fishes.

The plastic items never fully get decomposed. They just break down into smaller pieces and enter into human body through inhalation and absorption, causing serious health hazards.

Researchers have found deposits of microplastics in liver, kidney and other vital human organs.

What you can do to turn off the tap on plastic pollution

The next time you are out shopping, carry your own reusable bags. You can also refuse plastic cutleries, straws and water bottles at hotels and restaurants, and educate them as to why these items should be discarded, apart from pressuring the local authorities to check illegal sale and use of SUP products.

The Centre has asked the state governments to set up border check points to stop interstate movement of any banned single-use plastic items.

However, the success of the ban will only be possible through effective and concerted efforts by all stakeholders and enthusiastic public participation.

The action against SUP products should begin from our homes, and children should be taught from an early age to not use SUP products, because good habits formed during an early age tend to stay with people for the rest of their lives.

It is therefore important to start now, by action more than words, so that the coming generations do not use plastic items at all in the first place.